New York – The ZOA has expressed concern that US policy on not dealing with and funding Hamas/Palestinian Authority (PA) is being eroded and has urged the Bush Administration to confirm unambiguously its ongoing commitment to that policy. The ZOAs call follows a detailed exchange on the issue of Hamas in a State Department daily press briefing by spokesman Thomas H. Casey earlier this week in which Casey failed to clarify that the US would have no dealings with a PA government that included ministers from Hamas or elements within such a government.
Excerpts from the Casey press briefing, March 13:
QUESTION: Its probable or possible that other parties will join or are considering joining a Hamas government. Do those rules about no contacts, no aid [to Hamas], apply to any parties that would join a Hamas government?
MR. CASEY: I think we need to see what that government looks like, who is in it and what the nature of that participation is. But again, let me just make clear, the United States cannot by law and will not provide any funding that will go to Hamas Again though, as Secretary Rice has said and said again today, we believe its important that we take into consideration the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people
QUESTION: So is there no particular message to another party, lets say Fatah, thats considering joining the government that if they join the government then they would cut themselves off from contacts with the U.S.?
MR. CASEY: I think the United States is going to leave it up to the Palestinians themselves to determine who will or will not be members of the government
QUESTION: Well, that doesnt answer the question. You say you wont have contacts with members of Hamas. Youre not choosing the government, but youve got to tell parties who are joining it or possibly joining the government whether or not you will continue to have contacts with them. Is there a consequence of them joining the government or not?
MR. CASEY: I would need to see what the government was before I could tell you the answer to that question and Im not prepared to speculate on it The issue of Hamas and the issue of the government that is formed out of this process, we need to see what that government is. We all presume it will be Hamas-led, but maybe it wont be and maybe it will be different
QUESTION: I think you just said the U.S. Government is looking at the possibility of dealing with a government that has Hamas in it.
MR. CASEY: No. I was asked whether
QUESTION: You were asked if its not dominated by Hamas, what about it? And you said thats what were reviewing. Were reviewing what we should do about dealing with the next Palestinian government, which of course we all know will have Hamas in it, if not in a dominant role. So now youve unless Im mistaken, youve left the door open to dealing with a Palestinian government that has Hamas ministers.
MR. CASEY: We are not going to deal with a Hamas-led government. We are not going to have contacts with members of Hamas. Thats a standing long policy. Im not trying to change any aspects of U.S. policy here It remains the same. As to whether we might be able to have a contact with an individual member of a prospective government, that might that will emerge from this process, what I cant do is speculate for you on that because I honestly dont know the answer.
QUESTION: Okay. So thats clear that the position of the United States at the moment is there is no decision yet whether the door is open or closed as to having a contact with X minister, if hes from X party, as long as thats not Hamas, even if it its in a Hamas-led government You just said were not going to deal with a Hamas-led government. Does that refer to everybody in that government?
MR. CASEY: I am not in a position to be able to speculate for you as to who what individuals within the Palestinian Authority structure we might or might not have contact with, other than to reaffirm our longstanding position and policy that we do not have contacts or conversations with Hamas
QUESTION: Youre not ruling out dealing with ministers of a Hamas-led government. Thats a fact.
MR. CASEY: Barry, Im ruling out dealing with ministers of a Hamas-led government. Im ruling out dealing with a Hamas government. Im not changing our policy.
QUESTION: There was a story today that the Bush Administration intends to curtail contacts with President Mahmoud Abbas Fatah faction if it joins a Hamas-led government
MR. CASEY: I think weve been through that as much as I can possibly do today
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, We are deeply concerned that this briefing reveals a lack of clarity about the US position on not dealing with Hamas. Hamas is not only a terrorist organization, but one whose Charter calls for the destruction of Israel (Article 15) and the murder of Jews (Article 7) as a religious duty. It has murdered almost 500 Israelis and maimed thousands more in over five years of suicide bombings and other lethal attacks on Israeli civilians.
While Mr. Casey said that the US remains committed to not dealing with a Hamas government or a government led by Hamas, his remarks suggest that the US might end up dealing with a PA government of which an unreformed terrorist Hamas is a part or with individual members of such a government. Such a state of affairs is clearly unacceptable.
It is not enough for Mr. Casey to say that the US will not deal with a Hamas-led government but at the same time leave the door open to the US dealing with a PA government that might consist largely or even predominantly of Hamas people but still not be officially called a Hamas Government. Hamas has now a large majority in the Palestinian legislature and it is simply inconceivable that any PA government, whatever its called, will not consist largely, if not predominantly, of Hamas members. In short, the PA government will be a Hamas government.
When Mr. Casey spoke of needing to take into consideration the needs of the Palestinians, he was clearly hinting that ways are being considered of funding the PA, even if indirectly. Yet Palestinians knew what Hamas was when they voted for it. A society that votes into power Hamas deserves international help as little as Germany did when it voted the Nazis into power. There is a biblical statement that makes the point that He who is merciful to the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful.
The US must be faithful to its commitment not to deal with a Hamas government. It should not be seeking avenues to evade this commitment, such as raising the possibility of dealing with individual members of the PA government or the government itself if it is not called a Hamas government.
We strongly urge the Bush Administration to immediately and unequivocally clarify that unless Hamas meets the necessary conditions of accepting Israels right to exist as a Jewish state, abrogating its Charter, ceasing all acts of terror and incitement to hatred and murder and disarming terrorists the US will give no aid and conduct no dealings with Hamas/PA. If dealing Arafat and Fatah ended in disaster, why would the US think that dealing with Khaled Meshaal and Hamas would be any different?